November 27, 2012

Pump Me Up

I wanted to address common concerns with a quick update but evidently I'm not finding the time to do so. So let's talk about the biggest of the bunch for now.

Second to Genre Points, the most precious resource in the game is Energy. A lot of the game's inherent tension in managing your Genre Points went over to managing your Energy, this was by design since you can do a lot with each point. If you dedicate your 5-8 points to one ability, it'll do its job and then some.

Beam Weapons are absurdly powerful. While the other types an Advantage in specific circumstances (which is about a +3 to Accuracy) the full-rollover benefit of Beams grows in power in a linear fashion through the course of the game through both Tension and your own Accuracy enhancements, while every other kind of weapon is very good at hitting things but not that great at piercing through. This is, incidentally, why they have the most expensive Reliable modifier - because it is better than the one the others get.

Active Defenses (by which I mean stuff you spend energy to increase Evasion or Armor) likely nullify an instance of damage entirely barring crazy powerful finishers, which just suffer a very large reduction. Other Upgrades offer different tactical advantages, some are raw temporary boosts(Three Times Faster) while others offer a variety of bonuses and are meant to be used sparingly (Anti-Gravity) but the key point is that you can't go around using multiples of these without a failsafe or two.

So let's back off for a second here. What exactly would be wrong with giving everyone a permanent solution in the form of regeneration, instead of purchasable failsafes? Mostly that it is really, really boring. A game where you can always do everything that you want is not a tactically interesting one, and by being a limited resource you need to actually make choices regarding how to use it. I'll be frank in that early on I was considering giving everyone a static regeneration of 1 Energy per Round. The result of giving everyone regeneration while keeping things sane was nerfing the hell out of everything that needed fuel to use, and that just wouldn't do. It devalued the resource instead of making it more important, was rather fiddly to play with, and went against the goal of keeping things dynamic by encouraging battles of attrition.

Fortunately the available failsafes are excellent. Really? Well yes, the issue with Energy being so cost-efficient is that it always is more powerful than it looks at first glance, so when you get a handful of points back it seems disappointing that you're only only going to get a couple more uses of your stuff. When, you know, just getting the chance to shoot three more beams is easily all you would ever need. Ready for Another Go gives you an average of 3 for 1 Genre Point as many times as you need it and at reaction speed, Resupply will give you even more and can combo with Regenerative to give you up to 15 of it at no Action cost, and Micromanage can be used with a mix and match of Cooperate, Tactical UI, and Assistant to keep yourself or others in top condition. Even with the best method to regenerate energy gone (RIP old Limiter Release, which I affectionatelly dubbed Necropotence) any one of these is efficient enough to make sure you finish off the enemy before you run out of juice.

But still, while six or so uses of an active defense are more than enough to outtank an opponent, and three or four turns of 3x Faster are most certainly decisive, Beams and Anti-Gravity require a bit more finesse. If you fire beams or fly around all day long from turn 1 onwards, chances are you'll be wasting that Energy and will have to fight uphill afterwards. It was not an intentional design trap (Rest easy knowing that you will not find an equivalent to the Toughness Feat in the game anytime soon) but it is still there, and my job is to make sure that there's nothing you can casually walk into and be killed by without being clearly aware that something has to be wrong first.

So what is to be done about this? Well, for one I think we can make the basic Beam type cost 0 Energy. That would come with a change to the selection of modifiers that can be attached to the custom weapons. We can also make using Anti-Gravity free of charge Energy-wise, its effects being up in the air (so to speak) and other modifications being possible for use in other terrains.

There's a couple other things too, but that's as far as Energy is concerned. By ensuring that every point spent is meaningful, there is no need to make busywork with regeneration shenanigans since everyone is already on equal footing. So! On to the temporary fixes:
Custom Beam Weapon
Range: 0-7
Accuracy: +0
Penetration: 0
Energy: 0
Special: Beam

Areas: Core
Cost: 7
Effect: You ignore the effects of Terrain and can shoot through a Zone occupied by an Enemy as if they weren’t there to reach another behind it, but may also be attacked by anyone within range in the same way. This Upgrade has no effect underwater or in space.

Proper new modifiers and custom AG, along with other small changes to things like areas and transform, will come soon enough, until then this should do.


  1. Really the weapon traits are just unbalanced in general. Melee gets the worst in that its trait only works when Dueling, but is compensated with good modifiers and +1 to both base stats instead of just one. Missiles, meanwhile, get twice the range of Ballistics and a trait that means they get their Advantage in literally every range the Ballistic weapon would, while still being able to move, -and- still having twice the range, -and- getting their bonus to what you admit is the better stat. Ballistic is mainly competitive because Heavy is essentially free points.

    I find the argument with regards to Armor unconvincing because with the sole exception of a Titanic mech, everything has very weak Armor. Thus even if we declare that Destroyers are more tanks than dodgers, which their stats don't particularly support either way, half of all possible opponents will be Dynamic or Personal and thus it will usually be much more of a priority to hit than to worry about breaking through armor. See 1.33's Beam Cannon, which developed a reputation among my group for being so inaccurate as to be a trap choice compared to the all-around better Long Rifle or Multi Missiles.

    Taking away the Energy cost is a good start, but Beams are still sorely lacking for options, and you still haven't convinced me they're actually any more useful than Missiles to be given the short end of the stick when it comes to stats.

    1. So in fact, the problem may be poor comparison, and it's Missiles that are overpowered rather than Beams being underpowered. Certainly Missiles easily have better base stats than any other weapon type, good modifiers, and the cheapest of everything except Reliable and Remote. The only thing they lack for is access to Heavy and Unreliable, in every other regard they're easily better than Ballistics.

    2. Note this is not a call to weaken Missiles, they're about where I'd hope weapons would be in that they have just enough space to make some choices about their stats. Melee also offers a good mix of abilities in a category that they have near-exclusive dominance in, they're fine. Ballistics could stand to have more of a niche.

  2. We can give Ballistics a better niche, it just happened to be the strongest of the non-Beam types in playtesting. It is entirely possible I might have gone too far in the other direction as a response, so I'll look into it.

    Beams are not just the simplest way to guarantee damage against anything that actually enhances armor without using powers, but are the most easy to to turn superpowerful due to their linear increases. If that is not much of an argument then I don't know what is.

  3. I'd say if anything the problem is that you swung a bit too far the other way when compensating[seems endemic to 1.4 really]. Too "nerfbat vs overpowering", not enough "let's tweak a little". Just gonna talk EN and Beams though here.

    At 1EN Beams simply were not worth it. The EN cost change you've put up here to them and Antigrav are excellent modifications.

    Against a titanic that never boosted EVA, you could potentially deal ten more per hit than another weapon type, if you roll 10s and have +5acc and +5weapon-acc.

    Average rolls and taking 'Advantage' and the +1 pen or acc [or both] of other weapon types will lower this even against the mighty Titanic however, and Beams are more likely to outright miss a Personal or Dynamic Chassis that's pumped its evasion up a little.

    The bonus is quite good now that they're not costing you an arm and a leg to fire, but taking proper advantage of it does require you to survive into 6+ Tension to really get that difference to sink in. Back when "with a full EN Tank, no less" was attached there was a problem with the type.

  4. Regarding Energy Regeneration: You've basically offered a more powerful version of it with Assistant. I really don't see how it wouldn't be fine having something half the cost that doesn't come with genre powers and the ability to repair your mech, and just supplies the energy.

    Dunno how other people's games are set up but energy users burn through their tanks at a pretty high pace at my table. Perhaps we take too many pages from SRWJ, but there tends to be rather significant numbers of enemies, so that even by round 2-3 you're burning into ECS or Grav-fields once a round just from the nearby mooks.

    Without a 0EN beam weapon no one dares to ever touch the things, as every not-so-reliable shot burns your life away. Gigablaster is pretty much the only one in use, as it offers a good return on the investment if you threw in a genre point or allowed tension to go up a bit.

    I've found 1/2rds as an energy rate do pretty well.

    A few range changes I'd suggest to the weapons there though:
    Ballistics: 1-6 [needs more options, and +1 for range 0 added]. Pen base increased to 2. Personally I've always found it has the most reliable special effect to it. Plenty of units are happy to park themselves and fire.

    Beam: 0-5. Pretty decent special now that you can at least have a no-energy gun there

    Missiles: 1-8. 10 without even needing to buy longer range is just too much. But make the min-range +2 minimum instead of 3: Its pretty brutal since it all but removes your weapon's special.

    I like a lot of the changes, but I think perhaps you swung a bit too hard when switching things around. Space allocation's gotten wierd at the very least.

    1. I think that really describes it accurately. A lot of things are too far a swing in the other direction: from having a lot of low-cost but fairly useless abilities to having too few abilities to pick from to accurately cover a variety of concepts, from characters who are easy to make invincible for turn after turn to glass cannons who are easily hit and damaged from turn 1. It's pretty trivial to make a Missile or Ballistic weapon that has something like +3/+3 for base stats, which mounted on a Dynamic will become a +4/+5. With the natural Advantage giving an average roll of 7 to-hit and a starting Tension of 1, you'll almost always hit a Personal and deal an expected 4 damage assuming Tension doesn't apply to Penetration anymore, which you aren't clear on in the rules. That means the dodgiest unit type isn't expected to dodge without using ECS from the very start of the fight. Titanics, incidentally, will also take an expected 4 damage from such a weapon, but their higher Threshold means they can endure a bit better.

      The basic issue is that weapons are expected to do a lot more damage, which is fine, important even since doing damage in 1.33 takes so long to start happening. But both doing that and lowering defensive stats so greatly swings it from functional invincibility to the dodgiest unit not expecting to dodge even half the time on the very first turn, and it only getting worse from there. The same goes for tanks, who fare slightly better against non-Beams as turncount rises, but still don't expect to be able to ward off an attack from the weapon types they're supposed to be good against on turn 1 without burning 2 EN on a Gravagne Field. That's fine in SRW where units have Prevail, but GGG combat only gets more lethal every turn.

      I'll admit with the adjustment to a base cost of 0 EN Beams are fine, and I'm also fine with the revised Anti-Gravity. But the game as a whole has shifted very radically in terms of lethality and customization, and in a lot of places it's too far a swing.


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